Sustainability has risen in importance for Australian organisations concerned with cutting costs, according to Maureen Clifford, CEO of environmental and IT consultant Ndevr.
Clifford recently won the Victorian Telstra Business Women's Innovation Award, sponsored by Nokia, for her work on incorporating energy data management within companies' enterprise IT systems. The integration is meant to simplify and increase the accuracy of energy usage reporting. Clifford will appear in the Telstra-sponsored national finals in Sydney on 21 November.
Clifford cited a change in attitude toward sustainability since 2006, when she began assisting companies report data. "It's much more of a focus" for Australian organisations today, she told Computerworld Australia.
"When we first started, people were only doing it when they had to report. Now they voluntarily report." Companies increasingly see sustainability as a business opportunity, she said.
The National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act of 2007 was a strong initial driver making companies prioritise energy consumption reporting, Clifford said. But now saving money has taken over as the top reason for organisations to measure and manage energy usage, she said. While environmental concerns are also a driver, the CFO looks at energy mainly from the cost perspective, she said.
The Carbon Tax has increased the emphasis on reducing costs from energy consumption, she said, but companies have been reporting energy consumption since 2009. "I think companies have adapted to [the Carbon Tax] very well," she said. "Certainly there wouldn't be anyone having to pay a Carbon Tax if they hadn't already had to report."
Sustainability can be addictive, Clifford said. When companies start a green initiative, they find that "employees start bringing forward ideas and ways they can cut down on waste," she said. "It becomes ingrained in the whole culture."
However, green is still viewed by many organisations as a "separate initiative" to the broader IT plan, Clifford said. "It usually comes from the sustainability manager or environmental manager [and] certainly not a push from IT."
It's important for businesses to understand what their emissions are, because that amount could be more or less than expected, Clifford said.
"If you're doing it on spreadsheets and trying to figure it out, and the emission factor's changed in a year, you could be thinking you've got a lot more than what you have," she said. Ndevr worked with "one company who thought they had a lot more emissions than what they ended up with."
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